When the Joffrey Ballet opens its fall season on Oct. 17 with Christopher Wheeldon’s production of “Swan Lake,” the stage will be a little more crowded.
And that’s a very good thing. The company is adding seven new dancers to its ranks, something unprecedented in the history of the troupe.
“Thanks to some very generous donors we’ve been able to increase our ranks and the number of work weeks,” said Joffrey artistic director Ashley Wheater. “When you take [productions] such as ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘Anna Karenina’ and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ they’re all huge works, and so the company have been really putting out some serious hours of dancing. In addition there are huge demands on the dancers from touring and rehearsal hours. …
“Everybody at the Joffrey dances in nearly every single performance. When we’re talking of the welfare of an organization we want our dancers to get the appropriate amount of rest, and now we’re truly covered in terms of backup. We have some breathing room. At a time when companies are having to cut back and pinch the budget, we are truly fortunate to be able to do this.”
The new dancers are:
• Derek Drilon: Hailing from Vancouver, Washington, Drilon trained with the Northwest Classical Ballet. He joined the Joffrey Studio Company in 2015.
• Anna Gerberich: The Dilsburg, Pennsylvania, native has been dancing with she was 7, starting with the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Her professional credits also include American Ballet Theatre and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
• Valentino Moneglia Zamora: Born in Murcia, Spain, Zamora attended the Conservatorio Profesional de Danza de Murcia and Robles Ballet School. His professional credits include Compañía Nacional de Danza of Spain. He joined the Joffrey’s Studio Company in 2016.
• Xavier Nunez: Born in Puerto Rico, Nunez began his dance training at the Hartt Community Dance Division in Hartford, Connecticut and continued at the International Ballet Academy in Cary, North Carolina. His professional credits include American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company, the Paris Opera Ballet and the Sarasota Ballet.
• Princess Reid: Reid began studying ballet at age 7 at the Florida Ballet. Her professional credits include the Orlando Ballet second company.
• Julia Rust: Born in Noblesville, Indiana, Rust trained with the Indiana Ballet Conservatory and the Washington School of Ballet.
• Leticia Stock: Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Stock began dancing at age 3. Training began at the Maria Olenewa State Dance School and the Teatro Dell’Opera di Roma Ballet School. Her professional credits include London’s Royal Ballet.
With the Joffrey moving its home for the 2020-21 season to Lyric Opera House, where it will become the resident dance company, two world premieres planned for next spring and now a 46-member troupe, Wheater says it feels like the dawn of a new age for the world-renowned dance company.
“It’s been a beautiful journey in Chicago [the company arrived in 1995 from New York]. I always believe that an arts organization has to earn the respect of your city. Not only from the point of view of the Joffrey as a beautiful company, but also through our academy and community engagement, Chicago has truly embraced the company,” Wheater says. “We’ve been able to grow our audience every year. … Chicago is a city that loves its arts as much as it loves sports. To be a player here is a great moment [in time] for the Joffrey.”
For more information about the Joffrey’s upcoming season and tickets, visit joffrey.org.